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Screening of incoming collegiate athletes has always been a priority because it can identify abnormal or borderline abnormal heart structures that could impact an athlete’s ability to play sports at the college level.

For instance, in 2019, Athletic Heart screened 1,082 collegiate athletes. In total, 7.4 percent of these screenings returned abnormal or borderline results. The screening identified issues such as hypertrophy, enlarged atriums, and mitral valve prolapse. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, cardiac screening of collegiate athletes is even more important than ever before. Two factors influence the importance of such screenings: 1) The incidence of cardiac damage from the virus and 2) The prevalence of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients.

Cardiac Damage From COVID-19

An article in the JAMA Cardiology Journal from the American Medical Association cites a study that found increased incidence of cardiac damage in patients who were hospitalized because of COVID-19. The article states, as follows: 

Acute cardiac injury, defined as troponin levels more than the 99th percentile, electrocardiographic and/or echocardiographic abnormalities, occur in up to 22% of hospitalized patients with COVID-19,l2 which is significantly higher compared with the approximately 1% prevalence in non–COVID-19 acute viral infections. 

This spike in cardiac issues among hospitalized COVID-19 patients indicates the need to carefully monitor the recovery of these patients and to confirm their cardiac health before allowing them to resume sports-related activities. 

This monitoring, according to the JAMA article, should include, at minimum, “careful clinical cardiovascular evaluation” as well as following myocarditis return-to-play recommendations for the most severely ill patients. 

While the cardiac impacts of COVID-19 on individuals who were less severely ill are not yet known, potential cardiac issues related to COVID-19 cannot be ruled out for these individuals. As a result, even athletes who did not become severely ill from the virus should undergo cardiac testing before playing sports at the collegiate level. 

Cardiac evaluations like those offered at Athletic Heart provide a cost effective, customized, and reliable way to clear incoming freshmen for play because this imaging identifies the abnormalities related to COVID-19. 

By evaluating all incoming players, organizations can ensure that their players are physically prepared to play their preferred sport, even in the wake of a pandemic that could have serious cardiac impacts. 

Prevalence of Asymptomatic COVID-19 Patients

Conducting cardiac evaluations of players who have confirmed cases of symptomatic COVID-19 makes sense in light of the virus’ potential effects on the heart. What about asymptomatic patients, however?’

As the pandemic has progressed, it has become apparent that a large percentage of individuals with active COVID-19 infections never develop symptoms. 

In fact, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 80 percent of infected individuals are asymptomatic or have only mild symptoms. As a result, up to 50 percent of patients never know that they were ill. 

The cardiac impacts of COVID-19 have only been noted in hospitalized patients thus far. Whether or not asymptomatic patients experience sudden cardiac damage from COVID-19 is unknown. 

What is known is that cardiac damage from COVID-19 is potentially serious, and that the possibility exists that many individuals could suffer cardiac damage without ever realizing that they were sick.

Necessity of In-Depth Screening 

In light of these facts, it is reasonable to provide all incoming athletes with cardiac screening. By evaluating collegiate athletes for abnormal heart issues, organizations can catch potential issues before they affect an athlete’s health or ability to perform in their chosen sport. 

Currently, there are no rules requiring the widespread screening of student-athletes. The NCAA in 2016 recommended but did not require the use of EGGS in pre-participation screenings of college athletes.

Often, screening that does occur lacks depth and thoroughness, remaining at a basic level.

In-depth cardiac evaluations, however, gain importance in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using careful and accurate testing can prevent sudden death among student athletes and enable these athletes to receive the medical support they may need if their cardiac testing returns abnormal results.

For organizations that wish to evaluate incoming athletes in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Athletic Heart provides a reliable resource for conducting and evaluating cardiac testing, including EKGs, echocardiograms, and stress echocardiograms.

We currently serve organizations across the globe, including educational institutions like the following: 

  • UF
  • UGA
  • UTenn
  • USCarolina
  • UCF
  • Miss State
  • Alabama
  • Georgia Tech
  • Fordham
  • Oregon State

With more than 1,000 screenings conducted last year alone, we have a proven ability to identify both abnormal and borderline abnormal heart issues, from mild ventricle dilations to more serious hypertrophy or valve regurgitation.

Our screenings go beyond the basic screenings often conducted by other organizations. Our commitments to thorough, accurate testing enable us to provide athletes, trainers, and others the information they need to make informed decisions. Consider the experience of some of our clients:

“We have worked together with Athletic Heart for a number of years performing cardiovascular screenings as an important part of our pre-participation physical examination with every student-athlete. The quality of the screenings are excellent and their staff are highly professional and work very well in conjunction with our medical staff.”

Ron Courson


Senior Associate Athletic Director – Sports Medicine

“Last year was our first time using Athletic Heart to cardiac screen our athletes. They were very thorough and able to streamline the entire process making it very convenient for us.”

Clarke Holter

University of Alabama

Senior Athletic Trainer – Men’s Basketball

If your organization wishes to adopt in-depth cardiac evaluations, let Athletic Heart assist. We can deliver accurate and reliable testing for all of your student athletes.

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